Monday, July 20, 2015

The issue of screen time

There's a lot of attention given to the subject of "screen time" in the world of child psychology and development.  Experts have generally recommended limiting screen time because of rising childhood obesity rates, but with much of what we do migrating to screens, I think that's going to have to change.

Think about it.  These days, a kid could be adding to "screen time" while reading a book.  Writing puts you in front of a screen.  As this NPR story points out, educational games, some of which provide genuine opportunities to learn about things kids could only read about in real life, utilize devices with screens in order to make it happen.  Even online classes -- which many homeschooling programs use -- contribute to screen time.

So when do we recognize that "screen time" isn't always something we should be limiting?

Honestly, I think "screen time" needs to be redefined, and things like video games and TV need to be differentiated from reading and educational pursuits.  What's more, the justification needs to be updated.  Yes, we have a growing obesity problem, but it's overall lifestyle and diet that is causing it.  When I was growing up, I was never told to read less or I would become obese.  I'm willing to bet kids still aren't told that.  So why would screen time cause obesity when reading doesn't?

Clearly kids (and adults!) still need to find balance in their activities.  Screen time is fine when it's replacing equally sedentary activities.  Reading or learning on a screen isn't any different than reading or learning in a library or classroom.  The problem is when kids are allowed to go to extremes -- do nothing but play video games, for example -- and their "screen time" (or any other sedentary activity) starts edging out active play.

So don't fret if kids want to read a book on a screen.  Reading is still reading, either way.

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